‘Preparing for our Last Wishes’ article in AHH Magazine

'Preparing for our Last Wishes' article in AAH Magazine

Following her recent Last Wishes Workshop, an article in AHH Magazine features Jean Francis, who explains how grieving families need not be restricted to expensive coffins, traditional church services and gleaming hearses. Read or download an Acrobat PDF version of the full article here.

Jean will host another Last Wishes Workshop in Horsham, West Sussex, on Saturday 16 November from 10.30am to 4pm. Booking is essential on 01403 273 754 or visit the Last Wishes Workshop page for more information here.

Fur Therapy

In human years my beautiful retriever Ozzie is 105, considerably older than any of the residents in a nearby rest home that we visit.

We visit on a regular basis where Ozzie offers ‘fur therapy’ to residents, many who have had beloved pets but been forced to re-home them due to needing full time care themselves. A situation I would find devastating.

With their full attention on my four legged friend, we chat and I am constantly amazed how quickly people open up emotionally and share their problems, grievances and often their resentment at having had to give up their independence and in many cases their wish to die.

I feel so blessed to have found a way into the lives of these dear folk – all thanks to Ozzie. Because he is the focus of attention he allows spiritual counselling to take place in a relaxed matter-of-fact way. Wherever people are sitting, either in the main lounge, the garden or in their own rooms, we potter casually around, stopping if anyone wishes to connect with us.

Discovering ways to turn negativity around under limiting circumstances is an on-going and fascinating challenge. We discuss peoples’ amazing lives, look at photographs and recall happy memories, many of which include family pets.

We are all currently busy collecting funny poetry to share. This creates laughter and in turn leads to feelings of well-being. After all, laughter has to be the best medicine, not forgetting the ‘fur factor.’

My Funeral Plan – Rev. Alyson Carter

When I reached, and moved on from my 70th Birthday, it began to dawn on me – initially, very gently – that something had changed. There was an inevitable and new milestone on the horizon ahead of me and I began to ‘practice’ thinking about’ Endings.’  Because familiarising myself with this took time to take root, initially, I shied away from facing these things to begin with.  But through allowing them to settle in me and become comfortable, and as the years rolled by and I approached eighty, I realised that with one son and his family approaching a time of fulfillment in their lives and planning to spend more time in Europe, and my younger son living in the US, I needed to take responsibility for my own future: for their sakes.

In the natural course of events and family records, I guessed I had a maximum of ten years and began to make lists of my favourite music and writings.   Over Time, again, these changed inevitably, until I felt sure I had found the things I wanted to include in any Funeral or Celebration ceremony that might follow my dying.

Then one morning – like any other morning- I felt moved to find out about the Natural Death Centre and from their website I discovered that one of their funeral directors was based in the town where I live.   The rest became a quite surprisingly joyful experience.   The staff I spoke with about it all were so kind, sensitive and thoughtful.   They told me about the availability of Natural Burial here in Dorset.   I had already found the premises where I wanted to hold the ‘Celebration of my life.’    We discussed in depth the impact of cremation on the planet and any additional inclusions I might want.   They guided my thinking and made sensitive suggestions in answer to my many questions. 

As I moved into the experience of making this ‘real’ the ceremony changed as the ‘shape’ of the celebration altered in light of my increasing knowledge.  The reality of what I was doing deepened.   I found I felt increasingly relieved.  The experience itself helped me come to terms with the fact of my dying, making of this a reality of which I am no longer afraid.  I was able to write to my Funeral Director saying how sad I was that I wouldn’t be present to experience his gentle and sensitive care to my’ needs’ when my time came.

I find there is a feeling of achievement at having completed this.   The fact that this final celebration is settled has lightened my day.   There is a sense of relief and comfort that I have helped my family at a time of grief for them, and enabled everyone professionally engaged in carrying out this final ritual to support them with loving care and sympathy to complete the final, gentle task of a long, very full life.    I feel wiser for having undertaken this experience.   It has acquired a fullness of meaning, together with profound gratitude to all who have helped me.          

Alyson Carter

What other words or phrases do we use instead of saying the word ‘death or that someone has died?

Died
Passed over
Slipped away
Curled up his toes
Popped off
Pegged it
Hit the sack
Moved on
Graduated
United
Taken by the grim reaper
Curtains
Gone away
Transition
Going on
Deceased
Expending
Kicked the bucket
She went to sleep
Passed away
Pushing up the daisies
Gone to heaven
Shuffled off the mortal coil
Homecoming
Popped his clogs
Hit the sack
Gone into the next room
Gone away
 Crossed the threshold
Hung up his spurs
Passed to a higher dimension
Passed on
Brown bread
Snuffed it
Part your waggon
Arrived at heaven’s door
No longer with us
Deceased
When his time came
Left us
With the angels
6 foot under
Lost him
Happy release
Dear departed
Promoted
Gone to live with the angels
Heading for higher realms
 Passing the final test
Lying in state
The last goodbye
Eternal sleep
Moved on
Gone home
To live in the clouds
Gone to the light
 Niverna
 Snuffed it
Left his elemental body
Turned to dust
The end
Pegged it
Gone through the pearly gates
Passed over to the other side
Expired
Ceased to be
Climbing to the fjords
Gone to a better place
Ceased to exist
Passed the threshold
Taken his last gasp
Gone to meet his maker
Been called
Gone to live with God
No longer with us
Taken his last breath
The ultimate contribution
Transformed
Passed
Passed on
Passed away
Resting in peace
Eternal rest
Asleep
Demise
Deceased
Departed
 Gone
Lost,
Slipped away
Lost her battle
Lost her life,
Succumbed
Gave up the ghost
Didn’t make it
Breathed her last
Went to be with the Lord,
Went to Heaven
Met his Maker
Was called home
In in a better place
He didn’t make it
At rest
We lost him
Expired
Gone into the blue yonder
Taken his final journey
The final curtain call
Please let me know if you are able to contribute more expressions of ‘death to this list.

  TEDDY BEARS’ PICNIC

My grandson’s naming ceremony and teddy bears’ picnic took place in the family’s cottage garden beneath a willow tree. The joy of preparing for this special celebration with my daughter and her husband made me realise that many other young parents may like to explore such possibilities. This is a chapter from my yet unpublished book of Naming and Welcoming Ceremonies.

Recognising a sense of the divine in the natural world, Carrie and Brian have always felt most at peace while in the countryside, whether on horseback or walking the dogs. Continue reading

 Miracles do happen…

I picked up a card bearing a butterfly and was asked what does a butterfly mean to you? I thought for a moment and replied “freedom.”

I would have signed up for the One Spirit training years ago had it not been for my rapidly deteriorating eye sight. I was eventually told by my ophthalmologist that nothing could be done to improve the situation. I had already given up driving and could no longer see to cross the road safely, let alone thread a needle. It was at this point I decided to apply for a guide dog but thanks to modern technology a miracle took place.

At my next eye check, I was given the incredible news that a new procedure was available that may improve my sight. With little to lose, I embraced this news open- Continue reading

The Healing Power of a Good Funeral

When my ex-husband was told he had only a short while to live he asked if I would write and conduct his funeral. I began to put words together and as I read them to him over the phone asked him to stop me if he wanted to make changes. During this process he opened up in a way I had never known, in all our years of marriage and it was like our hearts really touched for the very first time.

He spoke about the hardships and trauma suffered as a 13 year old on a naval training Continue reading

Has Your Child Been Formally Welcomed Into This World?

Those that follow a traditional faith-path will no doubt go to their own place of worship to have their off-spring blessed, named and welcomed into the world.

There are many people who have a deep spirituality but feel they don’t fit into any particular box; rather like me before I trained to become a OneSpirit Interfaith minister/celebrant.

My training enables me to respect people of all faiths or none, holding the view that there are many paths to one truth. Together, with the family I create and carry out creative and loving ceremonies that celebrate the many milestones of life.

A ceremony creates a heart and a focus to any gathering especially when witnessed by family and friends, becoming an important milestone in the lives of all those present.

Here are just a few ideas:

• Combining a blessing on your relationship with having your child/children officially named, blessed and welcomed into your family
• Such a ceremony can take place almost anywhere, choose an unusual venue
• Within a mixed race relationship; rituals, customs , readings and music from both faiths can be interwoven
• If you have complicated family issues, together, we can usually find a way around problems
• Create rituals that tell your family story
• Make promises that you know you can keep
• If you love the great outdoors, combine a naming ceremony within a country walk and picnic
• Remember those unable to be present for whatever reason by lighting a candle in their honour.

We are all unique beings, let us together, create a ceremony that honours your uniqueness as a family – Contact me – I’m always up for a challenge!!

01403 273754 – jean@circleoflifecelebrations.co.uk

Freedom and Jeff

Skip your eye drops this morning and read this instead.

This is the kind of story you need when  it seems like the world is spiraling out of control.  Not many people can get a picture of this proud bird  snuggled up to them!

Freedom and Jeff  Freedom and I have been together 11 years this summer. She came in as a baby in 1998 with two broken wings. 
Her left wing doesn’t open all the way even after surgery,  it was broken in 4 places.  She’s my baby.

When Freedom came in, she could not stand and both wings were broken.  She was emaciated and covered in lice. 
We made the decision to give her a chance at life, so I took her to the vet’s office.  From then on, I was always around her. 
We had her in a huge dog carrier with the top off, and it was loaded up with shredded newspaper for her to lay in.  I used to sit and talk to her, urging her to live, to fight;  and she would lay there looking at me with those big brown eyes.  We also had to tube feed her for weeks.

This went on for 4-6 weeks, and by then she still couldn’t stand.  It got to the point where the decision was made to euthanize her if she couldn’t stand in a week. 
You know you don’t want to cross that line between torture and rehab, and it looked like death was winning. She was going to be put down that Friday, and I was supposed to come in on that Thursday afternoon. I didn’t want to go to the center that Thursday, because I couldn’t bear the thought of her being euthanized; but I went anyway, and when I walked in everyone was grinning from ear to ear.
 
I went immediately back to her cage; and there she was, standing on her own, a big beautiful eagle. She was ready to live. I was just about in tears by then. That was a very good day. We knew she could never fly, so the director asked me to glove train her. I got her used to the glove, and then to jesses, and we started doing education programs for schools in western Washington. We wound up in the newspapers, radio (believe it or not) and some TV.  Miracle Pets even did a show about us.

In the spring of 2000, I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.  I had stage 3, which is not good (one major organ plus everywhere), so I wound up doing 8 months of chemo.  Lost the hair – the whole bit. I missed a lot of work. When I felt good enough, I would go to Sarvey and take Freedom out for walks. Freedom would also come to me in my dreams and help me fight the cancer. This happened time and time again. Fast forward to November 2000. The day after Thanksgiving, I went in for my last checkup. I was told that if the cancer was not all gone after 8 rounds of chemo, then my last option was a stem cell transplant.

Anyway, they did the tests; and I had to come back  Monday for the results. I went in Monday,  and I was told that all the cancer was gone. So the first thing I did was get up to Sarvey and take the big girl out for a walk. It was misty and cold. I went to her flight and jessed her up, and we went out front to the top of the hill. I hadn’t said a word to Freedom, but somehow she knew.  She looked at me and wrapped both her wings around me to where I could feel them pressing in on my back (I was engulfed in eagle wings), and she touched my nose with her beak and stared into my eyes, and we just stood there like that for I don’t know how long.
 
That was a magic moment. We have been soul mates ever since she came in. This is a very special bird. On a side note:  I have had people who were sick come up to us when we are out, and Freedom has some kind of hold on them. I once had a guy who was terminal come up to us and I let him hold her. His knees just about buckled and he swore he could feel her power course through his body. I have so many stories like that. I never forget the honor I have of being so close to such a magnificent spirit as Freedom!! Hope you enjoyed this!